Whether you suffer from mental illness or not, this can be a particularly difficult time of year. Between family commitments, social engagements, and the pressure of wrapping up things in the workplace before winter break, it can often feel that the only sensible thing to do is hole up at home, all the while imagining everyone else is out there enjoying themselves and the holiday merriment. And if, like me, you suffer from depression, PTSD, and social anxiety the allure of isolation can be particularly enticing.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and decide the only choice is to opt out and take to my bed or the sofa until spring time.
Equally, reaching out and connecting with others is most helpful when we least feel like doing it. Connection doesn’t mean you have to go to every Christmas party – or any Christmas parties, if you don’t feel like it. Calling a friend, going for a walk together, or meeting someone for a coffee can sometimes make us feel more genuinely connected than getting dressed up and going to a big family gathering – and if you’re in the depths of depression, can feel a lot more possible too.
Although we are often busier at Christmas, we can feel more alone than ever - even when we are surrounded by people. This is why I find it particularly important to connect beyond the surface, sharing what is really going on with me and asking others to do the same.
Often, I’ll be surprised by their response, and sometimes I find that being a bit more honest about how I feel can open the door for a meaningful conversation – and perhaps even help someone else. It can be daunting to talking about mental health issues within the context of general conversation, but sharing about them with people with whom you feel comfortable can not only help you, but also helps to reduce stigma.
TEN is my go-to technique to get through a bout of depression. It stands for “Talk It Out”, “Exercise”, and “Nutrition”. I’ve already mentioned how the meaningful conversation and understanding of a friend can be so effective in getting through a rough period.
Exercise is a proven method to relieve stress and improve one’s state of mind. And nutrition directly affects the state of our mental health - I’ve found (and studies show) that a healthy, nutritious diet helps me maintain positive mental health. There are several techniques for improving mental health during the winter period and it’s important to find what works for you. But TEN is my support all year-round, not just for Christmas!
It’s easy to let social media replace genuine human interaction, and to get distracted by our phones rather than make the effort to engage with the people right in front of us. I’ll often put my phone away so I can actually connect with people, rather than escaping into technology. This Christmas, I’m going to spend a day without my phone. It can be a bit scary to have nowhere to escape, but it forces me to be present and engage with the world and the people around me.
I’ll also take time to connect with self by writing some poetry.
Christmas can be hectic and overwhelming, making you feel depleted before you know it. I think it’s important to take time out for yourself to do whatever it is that makes you feel grounded, and process all the feelings that will inevitably come up, good or bad. For some, it might be engaging in your spirituality or doing
something creative. For me, it’s writing poetry. Once I feel grounded and energised, I’m in a much better position to connect with others than if I have run myself into the ground trying to do all the things that others expect of me.
As humans, we’re wired to connect and create community. Yet, we often tell ourselves that we’re a burden to others or that no one wants to hear from us anyway, especially if we don’t have anything happy to say. And it’s not true! The catch is, the only way to
prove this to ourselves is to take the risk of reaching out to someone. Once we take the risk, we’ll find that others are as eager for
connection as we are.
find nicholas on instagram + twitter @nicholaspinnock